Gerard saved her once fourteen years ago, but can he save her again? (set in present day)
It was a dull, windy sort of day, where nothing was out of the usual, except perhaps the unseasonable chill and the extraordinary number of over fed pigeons; happily pecking at litter and harassing the more gullible passers by. One of their poor victims was a small child, a girl, who squealed and clutched her mother's clothing as a bird took flight a couple of feet in front of her, while another wandered too close to her tattered sneakers.
"Dante," the mother chided; her sunken eyes snapped toward the child without empathy.
Silently she bowed her head, coils of dark hair slipping forward to hide the tell tale expression of long suffering. They continued onward, and now the child ignored the pigeons, fearful of her mother's reproach. The sidewalk wasn't particularly crowded or empty, shoppers bustled along purposefully, and small congregations of louts loitered near the less guarded shopfronts; the mother didn't pause to pay any of these strangers mind.
By the time they neared their destination the child's gait showed the obvious soreness her sneakers were causing, and if it weren't for the mother's death grip on her arm, and the promised that the venue provided she surely would have lagged behind.
"We're going to the park, Mommy?" The girl's voice was hopeful, but her electric eyes showed she was already prepared for disappointment.
"Sort of," the mother replied, clutching the child tighter than necessary as they stepped onto a section of the road that had no pedestrian crossing.
"How can you sort of go to the park?" The girl frowned, attempting to decipher her mother's reply.
"You don't get to play," she told the young girl with finality.
"We're not sleeping, are we?" There was an undertone of a whine in the child's voice but another sharp glance from her apathetic mother made the child bite her tongue.
They walked perhaps forty or fifty meters into the park from the road side before the woman finally stopped beside a graffitied bench. She turned to the small child and silently picked her up, placing her on the cold steel. For the first time they looked one another in the eye, the woman's dull and clouded, the girl's wide, crackling with childhood; finally the mother stood straight and glanced away. After a moment she turned back.
"You stay here alright?" she asked the girl; a command not a request.
"Yeah," the girl replied, nodding in resignation. Like always her mother would be back in an hour or two, happier, and willing to then let her play on the equipment.
With one last look the mother turned away and walked back towards the road, but the girl didn't bother to watch her leave; she would come back. Instead the she started searching for something to occupy her mind for the next while. She began to watch two children on a swing set some distance away, duelling to see who could get themselves higher, but she quickly became frustrated, knowing that if she could join them, she'd beat them both.
Counting the leaves on the nearest tree also became dull, as the girl couldn't count past seven; aloud she wondered if the next number was eight or twelve. Getting off the bench to go retrieve the glass bottle which was lying on the other side of the footpath was out of the question as well, if her mother found out that she'd moved... The girl dreaded to think. Eventually she settled on imagining fairytales in her mind, where she was always a fairy or a princess, and her bed was large, white, and soft.
"Hey, you here alone?"
The question startled the young girl, and she broke free of her fairytale, staring at the adolescent boy who had stopped before her bench. He was solid, with hair darker then her own, and a marvel comic in one hand. She had seen a similar one before, the pictures were colourful, but the story was lost on her illiterate eyes. Eventually she nodded cautiously, gazing steadily at him in the late afternoon light.
"It's getting dark you know. You should go home," he suggested, frowning slightly and shifting his weight.
This time she shrugged in reply, looking down at her shabby sneakers, then back up at the boy. He looked more worried now.
"Do you have a home?" The boy asked, obviously noticing the clothes which she was beginning to grow too large for.
The girl had to think about this for a couple of seconds, but eventually she just shrugged again. This topic confused her; most nights they had somewhere indoors to sleep, but she wasn't sure that meant she had a home.
"Can you speak?"
"What's your name?" He asked, attempting a question that she couldn't answer with body language.
"Dante," she replied softly, glancing away from the boy again. No body had ever asked her this many questions.
"Where's you're Mum?"
"I dunno," the girl said with a shrug. That question was troubling her too; usually her mother would be back before dark.
"You don't know much do you?" He joked with a smile, but she just looked at him blankly, not grasping the wit. "Look, you can't stay here."
"I have to. I can't move 'til Mommy comes."
"When's she coming back?"
"I dunno, but she'll get mad if I go."
"Okay," the boy sighed, torn between his own safety and the welfare of the girl. "How 'bouts I wait with you for a while and if she doesn't come by the time the sky turns red you come with me?"
The girl thought about this for a moment, even going as far as swinging her legs and biting her bottom lip, before finally agreeing with a nod. "Alright."
The boy sat down next to the girl, seemingly nervous about staying put in the park, and opened up his comic, letting the girl look at the pictures as he read.
"What's your name?" the girl asked after a while, noticing the sky that quickly darkening as dusk took hold.
"Gerard," he replied, glancing up from his almost finished comic.
"Can I come with you now Gerard?" she asked, obviously as scared by the choice, as she was of the other possibilities. "It gets cold in the park at night."
"You stayed at the park at night before?" he asked, slightly shocked.
"Sometimes," she replied.
Gerard stood up from the bench and held out his hand to Dante, who immediately took it; she had seen her mother go to extremes to guarantee them a roof over their head for a night, holding hands didn't seem that bad.